What is Paleo Diet?
Also known as the “caveman diet”, Paleo Diet focuses on vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, fruit, nuts, and seeds, all of which are nutrient-dense foods. And there’s no surprise that the Paleo Diet can significantly improve your health and wellbeing.
Since each one of you is unique and there’s no perfect diet that fits everything, there are some strong Paleo Diet benefits that you might consider.
So you know, Paleo Diet is a nutrient-dense diet and can help you with weight loss and digestion. But it can have some side effects too.
Below I’ve listed you the health benefits of Paleo Diet, based on my knowledge collated from existing studies, books, and articles.
Health Benefits Of Paleo Diet #1: Promotes Unprocessed Real Food
This is the best thing that I like about the Paleo Diet.
If you decide to go Paleo, you will only focus on real, whole foods and eliminate most processed ingredients and anything from the junk aisle in the supermarket. And by doing so, you eliminate most of the preservatives, hidden sugars, sodium, additives, coloring, and artificial flavors.
So, fewer toxins and chemicals for your body to process …
More than that, Paleo Diet focuses on quality sources of food such as grass-fed beef, wild fish, free-range eggs (organic products if possible), meaning you’ll get in more nutrients. In this way, when you stick to the Paleo Diet, your food tastes better, and you support good farming practices.
But let’s go the number two of the health benefits of Paleo Diet.
Health Benefits Of Paleo Diet #2: Paleo Diet Is Rich In Nutrients
Most of you might think that if you eliminate grains, legumes, and most dairy, you’ll miss out on essential nutrients.
But it’s not true.
And it’s not true because if you eat more nutrient-dense animal protein, seafood, and eggs and you replace refined pasta, bread and rice with vegetables, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, berries, and fruit — you’ll get more minerals and vitamins.
More than that, when you stick to the Paleo Diet, you avoid gut-irritating grains and legumes. In this way, you improve your gut health and increase nutrient absorption.
The most important thing is to keep balance in your diet. And that’s why you need to eat various types of protein, vegetables, and fats rather than eating the same foods over and over again.
Thankfully, if you do the Paleo Diet right, you get all the nutrients you need. And you can promote weight loss, which leads us to number three of the health benefits of Paleo.
Health Benefits Of Paleo #3: Promotes Weight Loss
You see, Paleo Diet is lower in carbs and sugars than most traditional Western diets. And it helps you regulate metabolism, lower blood sugar, improve gut health, and reduce systemic inflammation.
More than that, when you go Paleo, you sleep and manage stress better, increasing the fat burning processes naturally and sustainably.
One interesting thing is that most people lose weight and increase muscle mass when they stick to Paleo Diet and have an active lifestyle.
How much weight can you lose?
Well, you can lose somewhere to 1-2 lb (0.5-1kg) per week, depending on your initial weight, height, and gender. I stick to Paleo Diet for seven years, and I managed to keep my healthy weight without depriving myself. And I’m sure you can do that too.
But let’s go further and discuss number four of the health benefits of Paleo.
Health Benefits Of Paleo #4: Improves Digestion & Reduces Bloating
Thankfully, Paleo Diet keeps you away from many compounds that negatively impact your digestive tract. For some of you, the foods that may cause digestive issues are excesses sugar, dairy, legumes, and gluten. But the Paleo Diet doesn’t include anything of those, so you don’t have to bother about it.
However, the diet includes plenty of vegetables and fruit, ensuring you lots of fiber, improved gut flora, which leads to good changes to your toilet habits.
I know how bad it can be to have bowel issues because I had these problems for years. But, thankfully, when I eat as close as possible to the Paleo guidelines, my digestion works best.
That’s why you should avoid pasta, legumes, or too much dairy since they can cause you instant bloating (leading to a less desirable toilet experience).
The Paleo Diet keeps you satiated and helps you control hunger. But this is number five of the health benefits of Paleo.
Health Benefits Of Paleo #5: Improves Satiation And Hunger Control
Familiar with this term?
Well, hangry is the combination of hungry and angry (a common symptom of acute or chronic hyperglycemia). It also happens when your blood sugar drops, and you get a rapid onset of hunger correlated with irritability, fatigue, disorientation, and a foggy mind.
You see, Paleo meals have more protein and fat, keeping you satiated for longer and providing you long-lasting energy. And by being lower in carbohydrates, the Paleo Diet makes your body to use the macros more efficiently instead of relying on glucose from carbs for fuel.
As you may know, two slices of bread and jam keep you satiated for two hours maximum, while when you eat a fat- and protein-rich meal with eggs, avocado, and some fish, you stay full for 4-5 hours.
Even more, the carbs from Paleo Diet are all fiber-rich vegetables and fruit, utilizing glucose more slowly. As a result, your blood sugar levels stay stable, and you have energy drops rarely.
You get hungry gradually, without having mood swings.
But enough with the hunger …
Let’s go further and discuss the number six of the health benefits of Paleo.
Health Benefits Of Paleo #6: Rich In Healthy Fats
Fats are bad.
Or are they?
For many years, people and media demonize fats (especially saturated fats), without having good evidence.
So you know, your body needs fat to thrive. It maintains your arteries healthy, improves brain function, skin health, and decreases systemic inflammation. More than that, dietary fats are very healthy, especially if you get them from the right sources.
Thankfully, Paleo Diet encourages you to consume good fats (grass-fed meat, wild fish, seafood, coconuts), lots of monosaturated fat from olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds, and a small number of polyunsaturated fats.
Usually, when you start a Paleo Diet, you can observe a healthier ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s fatty acids. And it happens because you consume less processed food and hydrogenated, vegetable oils and more fish and leafy greens. More than that, Paleo Diet includes very few trans fats.
You shouldn’t demonize fat. You shouldn’t avoid eating fatty products. Instead, you should embrace oily fish, olive oil, butter, avocados, and other healthy fat sources.
So, let’s summarize the health benefits of Paleo Diet.
- Increases energy levels
- Improves sleep
- Makes your skin clearer and hair healthier
- Improves mental clarity
- Improves mood and attitude
- Helps in sufferings like depression or anxiety
- Less or no bloating
- Promotes weight loss
- Increases muscle growth and fitness
- Lowers risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer
- Improves your immune system and well being
- Improves glucose tolerance (decreases insulin secretion and increases insulin sensitivity)
- Improves lipid profiles
- Make your gut flora healthier
- Better absorption of food nutrients
- Reduces allergies
- Reduces inflammation
- Reduces respiratory problems such as asthma
Paleo Diet Food List: What Can You Eat On Paleo Diet?
As you know by now, Paleo Diet has nutrient-rich, whole foods that help you achieve your weight and health goals.
Below I’ve listed you the Paleo Diet food list:
- Meat and poultry: Grass-fed, free-range meat is your paleo option. Thankfully, this type of meat is much higher in nutrients because of the way cattle are fed and raised.
- Fish and seafood: Always choose sustainable paleo foods like wild fish and seafood when possible.
- Eggs: Choose free-range, pasture-raised whenever possible.
- Vegetables: Go for non-starchy and starchy paleo foods like tubers and root vegetables.
- Fruit and berries: It’s better to eat low-sugar fruit like berries and keep high sugar ones such as bananas and mangos for when you need a higher carb intake.
- Nuts and seeds: But in moderation. Nutrient-rich and very high in Omega-6 fatty acids, nuts and seeds can be pro-inflammatory if you consume them in large quantities. Mostly, it happens when you don’t balance the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish like salmon, eggs, and leafy greens.
- Spices and herbs.
- Salt: Always make sure to eat quality sea salt, Himalayan salt, or Celtic salt to get the most benefits out of it.
- Healthy fats: Choose from paleo foods like coconut oil, coconut milk, ghee, butter, duck fat, olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, fish oil, sesame oil. And don’t forget about the grass-fed meats, poultry, and fish.
- Condiments: Choose from mustard, good quality vinegar (Apple Cider or aged Balsamic), olive oil, mayonnaise, low-sugar tomato sauces and paste, anchovies, olives, gherkins, capers, salsas, and pestos. And make sure to avoid harmful chemicals and added preservatives. You can also eat wheat-free soy sauce (like Tamari) and naturally-derived oyster sauce every now and then.
- For baking: Choose from paleo foods such as nut meals, coconut flour, tapioca and arrowroot flour, sweet potato flour, chestnut flour. But you have to use them in moderation because they’re high in carbs or may have high amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids.
What Foods Should You Avoid On Paleo
- Grains: Anything that has gluten (especially wheat).
- Legumes: Beans, lentils, chickpeas, and so on.
- Refined sugars and carbohydrates: bread, pasta, cookies, white sugar, artificial sugar, high fructose syrup, sodas, fruit juices, and so on.
- Dairy: Milk or low fat-dairy if you have gluten/lactose intolerances.
- Processed vegetable oils and fats such as canola oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil, and other margarine or spreads made with such oils.
- Gluten products.
What Foods Should You Occasionally Eat On Paleo:
- Avoid dairy products as much as you can (especially if you have gut problems or gluten intolerances). But if you’re in good health and tolerate lactose, you can eat dairy products from time to time. However, you should avoid cow milk since it has a high Glycemic Index, unlike cheese or yogurt. It’s better to go for goat’s and sheep’s milk products instead. Or A2 cow’s milk, kefir, unsweetened yogurt, aged cheeses, full-fat cream, butter, and ricotta.
- Include natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, molasses, dried fruit, dark chocolate, coconut sugar, rice malt syrup.
- Drink alcoholic beverages such as dry wines, clean non-grain based spirits.
- Eat fermented soy like miso, tempeh in small amounts, wheat-free soy sauce.
- Stick to pseudo-grains like quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat. They are less harmful but still dense sources of carbs and have similar anti-nutrients to grains. You should always cook them carefully to remove some of the anti-nutrients (i.e., phytic acid). You do that by soaking the grains in salted water for 8-12 hours, rinse and cook them well before eating.
- Even if fresh corn, green beans, and green peas are in the grain/legume category, they are still good to use now and then.
Paleo Diet Tips
- Paleo Diet doesn’t specify allowed foods portions. And because of this, you may find yourself overeating most of them. Of course, eating more lettuce isn’t a calorie issue, but if you eat a 5-pound jar of nuts, then things literally go “nuts”.
- Paleo Diet is higher in protein, which is the essential nutrient to build and maintain muscle mass. But lower in carbs, meaning that you may have less energy during your workouts (some caffeine pre-workout can do the trick).
- The number of carbs can be too low, especially if you’re an athlete. Even if the diet allows some carbs, it’s still a bit restrictive.
Paleo Diet Pros And Cons
So, let’s summarize the Paleo Diet pros and cons and see if the diet suits your needs.
Paleo Diet has the following pros:
- It’s rich in potassium. Thankfully, eating lots of fruit and vegetables increases potassium levels, helping you maintain healthy blood pressure and healthy kidney and muscle function.
- It’s rich in healthy fats. You see, eating moderate amounts of unsaturated fats like nuts, avocado, and olive oil help you maintain a healthy lipid profile.
- It’s high in protein. So you know, proteins are essential if you want to grow and develop your skin, muscles, bone, and cartilage. The right amounts of lean protein in your diet lead to healthy body composition and lower insulin response.
- It eliminates processed foods. Luckily, the diet only has whole foods, and it includes less salt and sugar. In this way, your blood sugar levels and blood pressure improve, and you reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Paleo Diet has the following cons:
- Some of the food portions allowed by the diet can exceed the recommended daily quantities for those foods.
- It eliminates some entire food groups leading to deficiencies in nutrients and vitamins.
- It restricts milk, cheese, and yogurt. And if you live in the West, you might have calcium deficiencies if you take these foods out of your diet, which can lead to low bone and tooth density.
- It eliminates whole grains, decreasing fiber intake, which is beneficial to your gut health.
- It eliminates legumes, which are very good for your gut health. And also rich in magnesium, selenium, and manganese.
- It suggests that humans today are the same as our ancestors in the Paleolithic period. But we’ve evolved so we can adapt to our changing environment, meaning that we’re wired a bit differently.
- It doesn’t have adequate evidence of the foods that people eat in the Paleolithic era. So you can’t know for sure what amounts of foods people usually ate in that period.
- You can’t adopt the same diet as people in the Paleolithic era did. And that’s because you evolved from 10.000 years ago.
As you can see, the Paleo Diet has numerous health benefits, and the Paleo food list is various. If you decide to stick to this diet, you sure have lots of foods from which you can pick. More than that, you can follow this diet, especially if you want to eat healthier or lose weight.
If you need a better Paleo Diet guide, I highly recommend the Paleohacks Cookbook. In this cookbook, you can find everything you need about Paleo, and discover lots of meal plans and ideas (desserts included).